KATHMANDU, Nepal — A passenger plane from Bangladesh slammed into an empty field and caught fire just short of the runway at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday, and officials feared many of the plane’s 67 passengers were dead.
Huge, dark gray columns of smoke uncoiled from the field as rescuers tried to save as many people as possible from the burning wreckage.
The plane, US-Bangla Airlines Flight 211, was landing at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on a flight from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, when it crashed at 2:15 p.m. Witnesses said it was wobbling in the air and seemed unbalanced as it approached. The tail slammed into the ground, and fire erupted at the rear of the plane.
“It sounded like a bomb went off,” said Kailash Adhikari, a driver for a fuel company working at the Kathmandu airport. He said it took 15 minutes for firefighters to put out the flames.
Nepalese police officials said the flight was carrying 67 passengers; it was not clear how many crew members were aboard. After the crash, ambulances with screaming sirens rushed in and out of the airport gates. Some of the wounded were ferried to Kathmandu hospitals by helicopter.
Nepalese officials said they did not know how many people had survived. One witness said the fuselage had been reduced to ashes.
Airline officials were trying to determine the cause of the crash.
“Further details of the crash are still awaited,” said Kamrul Islam, general manager of marketing support for the airline.
Images on social media showed heavy black smoke rising from the airport.
Airport officials said that several people were still trapped in the wreckage 90 minutes after crash. Twenty-five burned bodies were visible at the site, and a photojournalist said that 10 survivors had been taken to the hospital. He said the plane came to rest about 150 feet from the runway.
After the crash, the airport was shut down, and officials said several planes were circling in the sky above Kathmandu waiting for clearance to land. Some were short on fuel as they waited.
The airline’s posted schedule said Flight 211, a Bombardier Dash 8 from Dhaka, was scheduled to land at 2:15 p.m., around the actual time of the crash. The plane, a twin-engine turboprop, can carry as many as 78 passengers.
US-Bangla Airlines began operations in 2014, and its route between Dhaka and Kathmandu was its first international one, said the Center for Aviation. The airline is a subsidiary of the US-Bangla Group, a joint American-Bangladeshi company.
Jeffrey Gettleman reported from Kathmandu, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong. Bhadra Sharma contributed reporting from Kathmandu.